Schofield, Wisc. (WAOW) — After a bipartisan fight to keep Blackwell Job Corps open in Forrest County, students and staff worry about the center’s future.
In May, students and staff at Blackwell were told the center was closing. Instantly, they started to fight back. Guidance Counselor Lorie Almazan and her students began reaching out to friends, politicians and media.
“This isn’t just us students talking with each other to our instructors… We’re talking to the world,” said current student Alexis Christensen.
On Friday, a group of staff and students met with Senator Tammy Baldwin to discuss their path so far and look at the future. The meeting took place at Macco’s Floor Covering Center in Schofield, where Jim Macco said their biggest challenge is finding new workers.
That’s an issue Blackwell helps fix. Just last year, Macco said the company hired former Blackwell Student Kyle Sanders. In that short time, Sanders has already moved from helper to apprentice in his union.
“I go from making ten dollars an hour under the table [to] making 22 dollars an hour,” said Sanders. “And it is all because of Blackwell.”
In talks with Sen. Baldwin, Almazan noted a new struggle faced by the Job Center. “They are going to fill the Milwaukee center before they fill us,” she said.
Almazan explained a difference of incentives between the two centers, assigned by the department of labor, to bring in new students. Consequently, she said, Milwaukee’s job center brought in nineteen new students this week while Blackwell brought in zero.
That means fewer success stories like Gareth Mccormic. He said he struggled with addiction and, “was just an overall menace to society.” And after his time at Blackwell, he said, “now my family is more supportive than ever.”
So students are engaging with politicians to make sure the place they call home continues to change lives.